Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Greater Canyonlands — Utah’s Crown Jewel

8:00 am

Crown jewel: n. The most prized asset or possession in a group

Right now, the Bureau of Land Management is compiling a report that it’s going to send to Congress listing our nation’s public land “Crown Jewels.”  In our opinion, no list would be complete without the Greater Canyonlands region included.

Please tell the BLM to include the Greater Canyonlands region in its Crown Jewels report.

When we look at America’s redrock wilderness, it’s hard to say which landscapes are the most ecologically important, threatened or spectacular – but when we get down to it, the Greater Canyonlands region always rises to the top.

Centered around the confluences of the Green, Colorado and Dirty Devil Rivers, the Greater Canyonlands includes remarkable archeological sites, critical wildlife habitat, outstanding primitive recreation opportunities and unparalleled solitude.

That’s why we joined with other conservation groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and National Parks Conservation Association in submitting a letter nominating the Greater Canyonlands region for the “Crown Jewels” report.  Now, we need you to write to BLM Director Bob Abbey in support of that proposal.

Tell BLM Director Bob Abbey to protect Greater Canyonlands.

We’ve been highlighting all of the reasons that the Greater Canyonlands region deserves protection over the past several months. People are starting to listen – thanks to your help.

Please take action today and help us bring greater attention to the imperiled landscapes of the Greater Canyonlands region!

Thank you for making your voice heard.

The threats remain – Redrock Report August 2011

6:15 am

Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
1. Bad legislation on hold for August recess, but remains a threat.
2. We’re over halfway to our goal of collecting 10,000 postcards for Greater Canyonlands!
3. Join fellow redrock activists at SUWA events this fall!
4. The list of redrock bill cosponsors continues to grow.

Post-August recess threats from the anti-conservation Congress

Fiddler Butte
Current protections would be removed for portions of the Fiddler Butte Wilderness Study Area if H.R. 1581 passed.  Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Last month we told you about the “Great Outdoors Giveaway Act,” a breathtakingly short-sighted handout to industry that would release nearly 60 million acres of protected land nationwide to development.  In Utah, portions of places like Cheesebox Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, Fiddler Butte and the Dirty Devil would lose their current protections. This overreaching bill, numbered H.R. 1581, received a hearing in the House Subcommittee on National Forests, Parks and Public Lands on July 26, and was sternly denounced by Bob Abbey, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and Bruce Babbitt, the former Secretary of Interior from the Clinton administration.  The next step for this bill would be to go to “markup,” the process by which members of the committee make amendments to the bill and decide whether to send it to the full House for a vote.  Until that happens, this bill is on the back burner, but we will monitor it and keep you up to date.

Also on hold for now is the 2012 Appropriations bill for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service.  Early versions of this bill contained dozens of bad policy riders that would have stripped protections for wild lands, clean air, clean water and endangered species.  Some of those riders remain a threat, but distracted by the debate on the debt ceiling, Congress decided to defer voting on the appropriations bill until after the August recess.  This means it’s likely Congress will take up all its appropriations duties at once in a large omnibus bill, instead of individual pieces of legislation.  Which of the bad riders will carry over to that omnibus remains to be seen, but we will be vigilant in our fight to oppose them.

Redrock activists step up to the plate for Greater Canyonlands

Thanks to the help of Utah wilderness supporters across the country, we are over halfway to our goal of  collecting 10,000 postcards to the Obama administration in support of protecting Greater Canyonlands.  Every week this summer, we have been delivering a stack of postcards to the Department of Interior in DC, and will continue this effort throughout the fall.

Want to help us reach our goal?

To get involved, send an email to the SUWA grassroots organizer in your region (contact information is below).  We will mail you the postcards and informational materials, and your role will be to collect signatures and mail them back to us.  Whether you think you can collect 5 postcards or 500, any help is greatly appreciated!

In Utah: Terri Martin,

In the Southwest: Terri Martin,

In the Northwest: Brooke Williams,

In the Midwest: Clayton Daughenbaugh,

In the East: Jackie Feinberg,

Connect with other Utah wilderness activists at SUWA fall events

Utah Wilderness Dialogues: Chris Noble

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m.

Jane’s Home, 1229 E South Temple, Salt Lake City

Internationally renowned photographer Chris Noble will present a slideshow of redrock wilderness photographs and his thoughts about the importance of wilderness.

Chris Noble Chris Noble

Chris Noble is a photographer, writer, and multi-media producer whose work celebrates the beauty of nature and inspires people to live healthier, more mindful, and sustainable lives. He is a veteran of over thirty expeditions to the most remote corners of the globe, ranging from Denali to Everest; the peaks of the Alps to the jungles of Borneo; from the Arctic to remote regions of Burma and Bhutan. His writing and photography have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, Orion, Outside, and Rolling Stone. Noble has served as a contributing photographer at Powder and Outdoor Photographer Magazines.

Please RSVP at
Invite friends using Facebook by clicking here.

Visit our website to see the full fall schedule for the Utah Wilderness Dialogues.

2011 SUWA Roundup

WHAT: Legendary annual gathering of Utah wilderness lovers in the San Rafael Swell

Roundup 2010 Hikers explore Mud
Canyon during the 2011
SUWA Roundup

WHEN: Starts at 7 PM September 23 through the morning of Sept 25

WHERE:  Hidden Splendor Mine area (map available at

To RSVP: Fill out this form or contact SUWA’s Membership Coordinator, Kathene Audette, at, (801) 236-3763

Click here to invite friends using Facebook.

Enjoy a weekend of fun, guided hikes, service projects, and informational wilderness talks. The Roundup offers wilderness lovers, SUWA members and staff the opportunity to get to know each other while relaxing in the beautiful San Rafael Swell.  Activities include a discussion of Utah wilderness issues with SUWA staff, a potluck dinner, evening music around the campfire, and—best of all—guided day-hikes in the Muddy Creek proposed wilderness.  Sunday morning you’ll awake to freshly brewed coffee and breakfast prepared by the SUWA staff in thanks for all your support and dedication.

Attend a Utah wilderness slideshow presentation!

SUWA’s popular multi-media slideshow, Wild Utah: America’s Redrock Wilderness features interviews, stunning photos and video, and compelling narration by longtime wilderness activist Robert Redford.  Audiences will walk away with a better understanding of the issues affecting Utah wilderness and what they can do to make a difference.

Click here for the fall slideshow schedule.

To host a slideshow, or to recommend a group or venue for a presentation, please contact:

Brooke Williams ( if you live in the NORTHWEST.

Terri Martin ( if you live in the SOUTHWEST.

Clayton Daughenbaugh ( if you live in the MIDWEST.

Jackie Feinberg ( if you live in the EAST.

We’re up to 100 House redrock bill cosponsors!

In July, support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (H.R. 1916/S. 979) reached 100 cosponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate. Recently signed on members of Congress include Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), John Larson (D-CT), Steve Israel (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brad Miller (D-NC), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), and Rob Andrews (D-NJ).  Please thank your members of Congress if they have cosponsored the bill!

If your members of Congress are not on the list of cosponsors, please ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

change.orgSign the petition to save Greater Canyonlands


Utah Wilderness News, August 3, 2011

11:06 am

Roadless Release Act—A Great Outdoors giveaway

Here’s a roundup of some of this past week’s news on the “Great Outdoors Giveaway”:

“The bill, supported by all of Utah’s Republicans in Congress, although they should know better, would eliminate protections for all lands currently listed as Wilderness Study Areas. No consideration would be given to any particular parcel, regardless of its value for recreation, watershed, wildlife or cultural antiquities. No suggestions from local groups would be considered, such as the discussions going on in San Juan County now over what lands qualify for wilderness designation. This bill would simply erase the years spent by many hundreds of people to categorize millions of acres according to their particular values.”  Editorial – The Salt Lake Tribune

“The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ‘is the most radical, overreaching attempt to dismantle the architecture of our public land laws that has been proposed in my lifetime,’ Babbitt said Tuesday at a House hearing on the bill.”  Read more – The Associated Press/The Washington Post

“H.R. 1581 would let the oil, gas, and coal industries drill, undermine, spill, frack, and suck the marrow out of lands owned by the American public, for their private profit and to our sorrow.”  Commentary – Grist

“The rumbling sound you may have noticed coming from the general vicinity of the Sierra Nevada is Teddy Roosevelt rolling over in his grave. The great war hero, outdoorsman and early 20th-century president would not have been pleased to see his Republican Party heirs tearing away at his single greatest legacy: Recognition that this nation’s natural landscape—especially in the West—is a vulnerable treasure that demands more than our mere appreciation. It demands protection.”  Commentary – ThinkProgress Green

“All our prospective New Mexico sportsmen’s groups strongly support the protection of backcountry areas that are essential to fishing and hunting. Our organizations work collaboratively in communities around the West to develop stakeholder-driven management solutions that sustain fish and wildlife habitats. For this reason, we collectively oppose H.R.1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011. The bill would remove critical protections for backcountry lands that provide some of America’s most vital fish and wildlife habitat and many of the best places to hunt and fish.”  Opinion – The Taos News


San Juan County and State of Utah Appeal Salt Creek Court Decision

7:36 am

In their dogged battle to control federal public lands, San Juan County and the State of Utah have filed notices of appeal challenging the Federal District Court’s decision that Salt Creek in Canyonlands National Park is not a highway.  The Federal Court’s decision is enormously important, not just for Salt Creek, but for the thousands of phantom road claims on federal public lands across Utah (by some counts, this could be 15,000 to 20,000 claims).  The U.S. District Court’s decision makes clear that old trails with a sparse history of occasional use by cowboys, prospectors, or off-road vehicle users are not “county roads,” but are federal lands subject to federal control and management.  As such, federal lands managers (i.e. National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service) can close such trails and routes to protect natural and cultural resources.

Salt Creek in Canyonlands National Park is an oasis in the desert. Photo copyright Kathlene Audette/SUWA.

When Canyonlands N.P. was established in 1964, Congress described the park’s gigantic standing rock formations, towering buttes, natural bridges and arches and balanced rock formations as “scenery of erosion,” summing up the millions of years of mighty geologic forces that are on display.

Vehicles can access many of these wondrous features via park roads.  Thus, it’s difficult to understand why San Juan County and the State of Utah are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to appeal this decision to try to gain control over Salt Creek and allow jeeps and rock crawlers to drive up the creek bed, tearing out stabilizing vegetation and muddying the clear-running waters along the way.

There are no shortage of jeep and off-road vehicle trails in San Juan County.  In fact, the BLM recently completed travel plans for public lands in San Juan County, which resulted in approximately 5,000 miles of designated routes on BLM lands alone in the county.  In addition, there are hundreds of miles of vehicle route on National Park and Forest Service lands in San Juan County.

Salt Creek is a beautiful creek surrounded by slickrock and desert.  Its year-round water and lush vegetation are an oasis in the desert for wildlife.  SUWA will continue to fight for the protection of Salt Creek.

Liz Thomas